Hello everyone and welcome back from summer. I hope you are well rested from your vacations and ready to tackle the challenges and rewards of the next quarter.
We have a couple of exciting things coming up in late September and early October. As most everyone knows by now (I hope), the second full freeway closure of I-405 through the Sepulveda Pass will be taking place the weekend of September 29/30. Last year’s closure, the dreaded “Carmageddon,” turned out to be one of the best traffic experiences in Los Angeles history. People heeded the warnings and stayed out of their cars, resulting in a 67 percent decrease in traffic system-wide.
This year, we know that everyone will be less fearful, so we are counting on their good sense and a major public outreach campaign urging everyone to “eat, shop and play locally.” Metro, our partner on the I-405 HOV lane project requiring this closure, has launched a discount program that is tied to the use of public transit.
We are hoping for another successful closure en route to creating an unbroken HOV lane in both directions of I-405 from the San Fernando Valley to Orange County. With HOV lane construction underway and planned for almost every route in the district, Caltrans is well on its way to providing ridesharing alternatives throughout the entire system.
Also coming soon is the space shuttle Endeavour. Los Angeles is fortunate to become the new home of the retired orbiter and Caltrans is happy to play a part in its transport from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to the California Science Center, where it will become a permanent display.
The shuttle is expected to arrive at LAX on September 20, weather permitting. It will leave the airport on the morning of October 12, crossing Lincoln Boulevard and I-405 on its journey. We are facilitating the Lincoln Boulevard segment by allowing modification of medians to accommodate the shuttle, which is five stories tall, has a wingspan of 78 feet and weighs 170,000 pounds. It will arrive at Inglewood City Hall on October 13 for an official launch before being transported to the Science Center.
Here in Executive Management, we are undergoing a bit of a shakeup. We have a new Deputy of Planning, Aziz Elattar. Construction Deputy Roy Fisher has left Caltrans for a job in the private sector. Temporarily replacing him is Maintenance Deputy Dan Freeman, whose position will be temporarily filled by Herby Lissade, currently the HQ Chief of the Caltrans Office of Emergency Management. We also are losing Operations Deputy Diana Gomez to an exciting position as Central Valley Regional Director of the High Speed Rail Authority. Dan Fogle, Chief of the HQ Office of Encroachment Permits and Outdoor Advertising, will become District 7’s Acting Operations Deputy. We welcome everyone to their new positions and wish our former staff all the best.
In other Department news, the district directors and executive management in Sacramento have been working on a program review process to set and determine priorities, developing strategic roles for Caltrans in the coming years. These meetings will continue for the next few months and we will announce the plan when it is finalized.
Finally, I want to remind everyone to participate in the Annual California State Employees Charitable Campaign (CSECC), which kicks off on October 2. Last year, Caltrans employees statewide donated $669,641 through the CSECC. Let’s try to top that this year. Although it continues to be tough times for everyone, some folks have it tougher than we do, so let’s try to help them out. You can find out more about the campaign is this issue.
And be safe out there. Watch the road, move over for highway workers and be aware of your surroundings at all times.